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B-21, New Long Range Strike Bomber, Revealed

 

 

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James showed off the first rendering of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) to attendees of the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium today, according to an Air Force news release. Meanwhile, in a separate release, Boeing announced that the company and LRSB teammate Lockheed Martin would drop any further challenges to the contract award.

James revealed an early artist’s conception of Northrop Grumman’s initial design concept for the LRSB, now designated the B-21. She said the Air Force would ask airmen for suggestions on what to name the new bomber. The B-21 designation was picked to signify the LRSB as the first new Air Force bomber of the 21st century.

James has said the B-21 is needed to provide the Air Force with a bomber that can launch from the United States and deliver airstrikes anywhere in the world, including those protected by state-of-the-art air defenses.

“This aircraft represents the future for our airmen, and [their] voice is important to this process,” James said. “The airman who submits the selected name will help me announce it at the [Air Force Association] conference this fall.”

“The platforms and systems that made us great over the last 50 years will not make us great over the next 50,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said during his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill Feb. 10, 2106. “There are many other systems we need to either upgrade or recapitalize to ensure viability against current and emerging threats… the only way to do that is to divest old capability to build the new.”

James has said the B-21 is needed to provide the Air Force with a bomber that can launch from the United States and deliver airstrikes anywhere in the world, including those protected by state-of-the-art air defenses.
James also explained why the depiction of the B-21 she revealed could easily be mistaken for a B-2.

“The B-21 has been designed from the beginning based on a set of requirements that allows the use of existing and mature technology,” James said.

The program recently entered into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest from the Boeing and Lockheed Martin team against the contract award to Northrop Grumman. The losing team issued a press release today saying it would drop any further challenges.

“While we remain firmly convinced of the validity of the issues raised in our protest to the Government Accountability Office of the Long Range Strike-Bomber contract award to Northrop Grumman, the Boeing – Lockheed Martin team has decided not to pursue further challenges to that award, either through the GAO or in federal court. This decision was taken, as always, with the best interests of our customer and the warfighter in mind,” the release read.

The Air Force plans to achieve initial operating capability for the B-21 in the mid-2020s.